ONE long-running Winnipeg curling tradition will say farewell to another when the opening ceremonies of the 123rd MCA Bonspiel are staged this afternoon at the Grain Exchange Curling Club.
The venerable Grain Exchange was given the honour of hosting this year's opening ceremonies because it is being torn down to make way for a new heritage park and interpretive centre at Upper Fort Garry.
"It's going to be a little tight for space for the opening ceremonies in terms of the viewing area and so forth," MCA executive director Shane Ray explained, "but we wanted to do something nice to recognize a club that has been part of the MCA for so many years."
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This year's MCA Bonspiel will open on a sombre note.
Longtime bonspiel veteran and noted local competitive curler Pat Spiring passed away on Monday after a battle with cancer. He leaves children Samantha Sauriol and Dustin Spiring and his partner Joelle Brown, a competitive curler in her own right.
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Most of the big names already have their berths into next month's Manitoba men's curling championship in Beausejour.
But there are a few notable names still looking. Topping that list would be 2002 world junior champion David Hamblin, who lost the final of his zone in an extra end to Dean North last month and earlier came up short at the Southern Berth Bonspiel.
Other teams looking for one of the six provincials berths up for grabs in the next five days include Dave Boehmer, Randy Neufeld and Brendan Taylor.
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This is the third year of the abbreviated bonspiel format.
The event begins tonight and runs at curling clubs across the metro region through the finals on Monday. The finals will take place at the Grain Exchange, Elmwood and Charleswood curling clubs.
Each team is guaranteed six games and all games are eight ends.
Two provincials berths will come out of the Free Press events, two berths will come out of the Safeway Lucerne events and two will come out of the Asham events.